This chapter appears in Planning and Implementing Resource Discovery Tools in Academic Libraries edited by Mary Pagliero Popp and Diane Dallis. Copyright 2011, IGI Global, Posted by permission of the publisher.


Serendipity, the accidental discovery of something useful, plays an important role in discovery and the acquisition of new knowledge. The process and role of serendipity varies across disciplines. As library collections have become increasingly digital faculty lament the loss of serendipity of browsing library stacks. Resource discovery tools may have features that support serendipity as part of information seeking. A comparison of four commercial Web-scale discovery tools, Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) WorldCat® Local1, Serials Solution2® Summon3™, ExLibris4® Primo Central5™, and EBSCO Discovery Services (EDS)6™, links product features to characteristics that support serendipitous discovery. However, having such features is only part of the equation. Educators need to include serendipity in discussions about the research process. Future research opportunities include determining whether serendipity can be encouraged, evaluating its occurrence in the web scale environment, and studying serendipity in relation to research instruction.


Library and Information Science | Science and Technology Studies | Technology and Innovation